9. The Large Shield of Faith

Check Your Panoply

THE SPIRITUAL, SUIT Of armor, as described in Ephesians 6:10-17, is ideally suited to fend off wicked spirits. This panoply of God is, indeed, so efficient that it will protect us against the highest and mightiest among the world-mights of this darkness. Hence it goes without saying that this armor will be more than adequate protection against attacks by any kind of spiritual forces of wickedness, demons included. (It is interesting to note that most of the occurrences of the Greek word daimonion are in the diminutive form, which seems to indicate that demons may be among the inferior ones in the spirit world.)

For this reason, those to whom God has imparted some understanding of the Ephesian secret (3:6; 4:3-6) should never worry about the least of our spiritual foes, but rather be aware of the craftiness of those of higher rank, for they are the only ones who will continually attempt to drag us down from the celestial realm to the nether sphere of soulish emotions and fears.

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We know, however, that the soulish man cannot receive those things which are of the spirit of God (1 Cor.2:14). But ever since God’s spirit has made its home in us and we have the same spirit that resides in Christ, our own spirit is life because of righteousness. The soulish man might find his satisfaction in food and drink and emotional pleasures, but everyone slaving for Christ will put the emphasis on righteousness and peace and joy in holy spirit, and will consequently pursue that which makes for peace, for the disposition of the spirit is life and peace (Rom.8:6,9,10; 14:17-19). This reminds us of Paul’s appeal in 2 Timothy 2:22, “Pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace,” and in Ephesians 6:16, ” . . . with all taking up the large shield of faith . . . “, for apart from faith it is impossible to be well pleasing to God (Heb.11:6).

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Faith began when we first believed, and we will go on believing until we meet our Lord in the air, prior to our presentation at the dais. Only then faith will come to an end, and we will observe what we had expected and believed. Now let us try to discuss a few aspects of our present expectation. It is based on spiritual grains which we accept by means of our individual faith; we find them, e.g., in Thessalonians, Romans, and Ephesians. We will also have a glance at the dais where we will be requited for our lack of faith as well as our faithfulness. When we have done so, we should be better equipped to come to a full understanding of Ephesians 6:16, “With all taking up the large shield of faith, by which you will be able to extinguish all the fiery arrows of the wicked one.”

But before we embark on this venture, let us first try to find out what Hebrews 11:1 means. Here we have a divine explanation of the term “faith.” The Authorized Version reads:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

The Concordant Version, however, has the following wording:

Now faith is an assumption of what is being expected, a conviction concerning matters which are not observed.

When we compare the texts of these two versions, we will readily admit that “faith” is neither the “substance” nor the “evidence” of things hoped for. Faith is rather the conviction that the things we are expecting will someday materialize because God says so in His Word. We have no real evidence now that His promises will become true, apart from the fact that so many of His promises of old have been fulfilled already. But insofar as the present and the future are concerned, there is no substantial evidence available at this time. Your individual faith as well as mine is just an assumption of what we are expecting. Our God-given faith is a strong conviction concerning matters which cannot yet be observed.

Like the believers named in Hebrews 11, we might die in faith, perceiving our own promises far ahead, and not being requited with them during our lifetime (Heb.11:13). We all remember God’s promise to Abraham when He contracted a covenant with him and said, “To your seed, I give this land, from the stream of Egypt as far as the great stream, the stream Euphrates” (Gen. 15:18). Hence we believe that all this territory belongs to Israel; and that is faith. However, when we look at today’s map of the new state of Israel, we see that it owns just a tiny fraction of that promised land. It is faith to assume that God’s promise will come true in due time, in spite of the present political situation, where all the odds are still against Israel while it is in unbelief.

From this example we can gather that faith is, indeed, an assumption of that which is being expected, a conviction concerning matters which are not being observed. After our meeting with the Lord in the air, faith will no longer be necessary; then we will have ample substantial evidence of what we believed and expected.

There is a twelve-page article dealing with the terms “spiritual” and “figurative” in UNSEARCHABLE RICHES, volume 32, starting on page 113. We highly recommend this exposition to everyone who wants to study this subject. It has an important bearing on faith as is shown by the following quotation from this article.

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“True faith is an assumption of what is expected (Heb. 11:1). Hence, in the Scriptures, especially in Paul’s epistles, our future expectation is spoken of as a present or even a past reality. This is particularly the case in regard to rousing and vivification, usually called resurrection. We were both roused and vivified in and together with Christ (Eph.2:5,6; Col.3:1). These are great and marvelous realities. Even though we were not actually vivified or roused, we may assume it by faith and comport ourselves accordingly. Indeed, if we were literally immortal, there would be no need of any warning, not to be disposed to that on earth, for we would inevitably be disposed to that which is above.

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“The fact that the literal vivification of the future will result in flawless behavior, in conduct absolutely pleasing to God, explains why it is introduced in a figure in order to provide us with power for present conduct acceptable to Him. By faith, we assume what we expect (Heb.11:1) in order to lay hold of eonian life, and anticipate that which is ours, to enjoy it in expectation. Just as the final vivification will lead to a celestial disposition, for it will fit us for that environment, so the knowledge that we have this life, in Christ, will lead us to seek that which is above during our present life on earth. This knowledge is most blessedly conveyed to us in the figure: in Christ. In Him, at His vivification, both the Circumcision and Uncircumcision of this administration were jointly vivified, with a view to the good acts which God had prepared beforehand, for them to walk in them.

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“The words, 'If then, you were roused together with Christ’ (Col.3:1), clearly refer to some previous statement to this effect. This is found in the preceding chapter (2:12): ‘In Whom you were roused together also through faith in the operation of God, Who rouses Him from among the dead . . . ’ Here we have a plain declaration that this rousing is not a fact, but comes to us only through faith. Had it been an actual occurrence, these words would never have been needed. Hence it is clear that Colossians 3:1 also refers to a figurative rousing, in Christ, which took place literally, when He was roused, and is not true of us in ourselves today, literally, but only as a result of our faith in His rousing.

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“The terms ‘spiritual life’ and ‘physical life’ are non-scriptural and unsound, for they imply that there is life apart from spirit. It is not easy for us to avoid them because we are not accustomed to the language of figures which is so freely used in the Scriptures. It is necessary for us to break with these misleading expressions, however, for it is practically impossible to grasp the truth as to death and life as long as we harbor them. In my early studies, the manifest absurdity of ‘spiritual’ death was not apparent to me. But then I learned that life is the product of spirit, and death is due to the lack of spirit . . . It is worthy of notice that the Scriptures never use the expression ‘spiritual life.’ . . .  We cannot say that we were vivified ‘spiritually’ in Christ (Eph.2:5); nor can we say that our bodies are now vivified ‘spiritually’ by God’s spirit which makes its home in us (Rom.8:11), as in contrast to our future vivification, whenever that may be, for that must of necessity be even more spiritual, for our very bodies will then become spiritual.

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“The difference between our vivification in the past and in the future is not that the former is spiritual and the latter unspiritual, but that the one in the past was figurative and the one in the future will be literal. The past is a matter of faith in the operation of God. The future will not require faith, for it will be a blessed and glorious experience, which will thrill our very being with life so abundant and exultant that our hearts will overflow with thanksgiving and praise to God. Moreover, our life will no longer be hidden, as it is at present, but manifest to all the world. Now this is not the case. We still wait for Christ. Whenever He, Who is our Life, should be manifested, then, and not before, shall we be manifested with Him in glory.”

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We have pointed out on an earlier occasion that all the blessings are ours, even apart from our own faithfulness or service, for it is in grace and for grace that we are saved. All this is channeled to us through faith, yet even this faith is not out of us; it is God’s gift, His oblation or approach present with which He wins our hearts. Quite a few of the things that are to be said about faith will be found in Paul’s two early letters to the Thessalonians. His introductory prayer of praise (1 Thess. 1:2-8) is surely worthy of emulation:

“We are thanking God always concerning you all,
making mention of you in our prayers,
unintermittingly remembering your work of faith . . .
for the evangel of our God did not come to you
in word only, but in power also,
and in holy spirit and much assurance . . .
And you became imitators of us and of the Lord,
receiving the word in much affliction
with joy and holy spirit, so that you became models to all the believers . . .
your faith toward God has come out . . . ”

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We have pointed out before that while putting on the panoply of God, every single step ought to be accompanied by prayer and thanksgiving. The verses from which we have just quoted contain wonderful divine declarations; words of faith and ideal teaching, indeed, that may help us in modifying and supplementing our own petitions. Prayer is a part of our daily service; hence a daily effort is necessary if we really want to please God, so as to become imitators of Paul and the Lord, living models for our fellow believers. Here lies a great responsibility toward others who might look upon our work of faith, our toil of love, our endurance of expectation, with a view toward emulating it, provided, however, that our love makes our faith sufficiently attractive to them.

Verse five reminds us of 1 Corinthians 2:4,5 where Paul emphasizes the fact that “my word and my heralding were not with the persuasive words of human wisdom, but with demonstration of spirit and of power, that your faith may not be in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” Let us not forget the fact that “God delights, through the stupidity of the heralding, to save those who are believing.” And He has said, “I shall be destroying the wisdom of the wise, and the understanding of the intelligent shall I be repudiating” (1 Cor.1:19,20). Hence, if we want our faith toward God to become apparent to others, we should never be concerned about our lack of initiative or intelligence; God does not need them! His evangel comes to us in the power of the holy spirit and in much assurance. Even in much affliction, we will receive the Word of God in spiritual joy, to the astonishment of others who might become interested, first in our attitude, and later in our faith toward God.

Today, we take it for granted that our faith toward God is regularly nourished by words of faith and ideal teaching as they are available to us in the printed Word. It is very difficult for us to remember that there was a time when the “New Testament” was not yet written when not even one of Paul’s letters had been penned. In those days the faith of the Thessalonians (and others) was founded on the apostle’s original message to them; their faith was nourished by what they remembered of Paul’s words which he had spoken to them in the Jewish synagogue of Thessalonica on three sabbaths. At that time only some of the Jews in the audience had been allotted to Paul and Silas; but a vast multitude of the reverent Greeks, both men and women, believed. This was on the occasion of the apostle’s first trip to Europe which was his second missionary journey (Acts 17:1-4). But the majority of the Jews in Thessalonica were violently opposed to Paul’s teaching; hence he had to leave their city although the young believers had only just received the evangel and needed to be taught and confirmed in their faith toward God. Paul was deeply concerned about them and sought twice to return to them, but was hindered (1 Thess.2:18). So he sent Timothy, “God’s servant in the evangel of Christ,” in his stead in order to establish and console them for the sake of their faith (3:2). By the time his young assistant returned, the apostle had proceeded from Athens to Corinth. Now it was Paul who was consoled through the faith of the brethren in Thessalonica. Timothy’s report on the situation among the believers in that city was, indeed, a well-message, an evangel of the Thessalonians’ faith and love (3:6,7). Their faith toward God had come out, and their love, too.

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